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Music - Singles of the Week - Monday, January 14

IndieLondon gleefully checks out the cream of the week’s singles. All you have to do is click on the pictures to order them…

Radiohead, Jigsaw Falling Into Place

SINGLE OF THE WEEK: RADIOHEADJIGSAW FALLING INTO PLACE: Radiohead are on a roll in 2008 – and it’s barely two weeks old! Having confounded the sceptics by shooting straight to No.1 in the album charts with their latest In Rainbows (despite releasing it for free online last year), they now look set for a similarly high chart position with the first single to be taken from the long-player. Jigsaw Falling Into Place is one of the standout tracks from the album and feels like a really classic anthem in the making that embraces many of their earlier traits, circa Kharma Police era recordings. It’s intricately layered with some really fine guitar work helping to propel it forward, while Thom Yorke’s distinct vocals lend it that welcome trademark vocal quality. It’s a slow-builder in the classic style that only Radiohead seem to know best and it’s a great way to bring even more fans to the album. What’s more, it’s available on CD single and as a 7 inch vinyl, both featuring live performances taken from the television show From The Basement that are unavailable anywhere else in audio format. And who dares to claim that you don’t get value for money with this band?
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Lupe Fiasco, Superstar

LUPE FIASCO – SUPERSTAR: Chicago native Lupe Fiasco releases his new single Superstar in supremely upbeat fashion. It’s the first track to be taken from the artist’s sophomore album Lupe Fiasco’s The Cool, which is being hailed already as a conceptual tour-de-force. Superstar features a collaboration with vocalist Matthew Santos (who appeared on the track American Terrorist from the first album) and it’s a catchy fusion of pop and rap that provides a really easy listen. The chorus is sung, while Lupe provides a nice rap over the verses. The track is actually an almost autobiographical account of Lupe’s own rise to fame and is an issue that clearly causes him some discomfort. It’s produced by Soundtrakk and beams with poignant issues that are clearly close to the singer, thanks to lyrics such as: “A fresh, cool young Lu, trying to cash his microphone check, 2, 1, 2, wanna believe my own hype, but it’s too untrue, the world brought me to my knees, what have you brung you?” At last, a hip-hop star who’s willing to demonstrate some humility!
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Robyn, Be Mine

ROBYN – BE MINE: Robyn comes over all Cyndi Lauper for her latest slice of excellence, the new single Be Mine. It’s a song that depicts an intense unrequited love, but it’s just as catchy, fun and addictive as ever – and, needless to say, another of the picks from her excellent eponymous album. Celebrities and critics have recently been lining up to lavish praise on Robyn, with several naming the album as the best pop creation of 2007 and former No.1 single With Every Heartbeat as one of the best tracks. Be Mine merely underlines those credentials and goes some way to explaining why she’s arguably the most exciting artist working in pop at the moment. What’s more, the single release comes with an extensive remix package, courtesy of Roger Sanchez, Jori Hulkkonen, Dusty Kid, and Klas Ahlund, who also produced the track. The CD also includes a gorgeous acoustic version of Be Mine.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Jack Johnson, If I Had Eyes

JACK JOHNSON – IF I HAD EYES: Jack Johnson continues to progress as an artist with If I Had Eyes, the excellent first track to emerge from his forthcoming new album, Sleep Through The Static, due out on February 4, 2008 (through Brushfire/Island Records). The distinctly laidback vocals are, on this occasion, augmented by the similarly trademark acoustic guitar licks – and, most crucially, a somewhat more urgent sensibility. The song is a sad lament about the failure of a relationship that’s given a little extra spike thanks to some hitherto unused electric guitar moments. That’s not to say Johnson has gone all rock, but it does suggest he’s moving forward and finding new ways to add to his wonderful sound. And don’t let the melancholy subject matter put you off, that same sunshine vibe that accompanies so much of his music is present and correct. Roll on the new album, we say! If I Had Eyes has been available as a digital download since Christmas Day, but is released physically in stores on January 14, 2008.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Dave Gahan, Saw Something

DAVE GAHANSAW SOMETHING: Dave Gahan, the iconic frontman of Depeche Mode, returns with the double A-side of Saw Something and Deeper & Deeper, the second release to be taken from his LP Hourglass.Written, performed and produced by Dave Gahan, Christian Eigner and Andrew Phillpott – both members of the Depeche Mode touring band – Saw Something shows the softer side of Gahan’s songwriting – but remains a deeply atmospheric, often haunting offering that still wouldn’t sound out of place on a DM long-player. Gahan has always had a way with imagery and the moody chorus boasts the killer line “I saw something in your eyes and I wanted it for myself”, as if to underline the singer-songwriter’s gift for marrying beauty with something a little more dark. It’s a welcome indicator that Gahan’s solo work is just as worth owning as his material for Depeche Mode.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Madness, NW5

MADNESS – NW5: Madness return with the first taste from their much anticipated forthcoming album. Over the past year, NW5 has become a mainstay in the legendary Madness live set, including highlight performances at Glastonbury and Bestival. It’s easy to see why, given that it’s an effortlessly catchy track, complete with an easy to sing along to chorus, plenty of melody and that trademark piece of brass midway through. Suggs’ vocals are as easygoing and radio friendly as ever and the slightly more manic tendencies of tracks like Baggy Trousers are excercised in favour of a deeper kind of romanticism. This is the type of song that has real lasting power. And the video – a clever homage to The Usual Suspects that finds Suggs taking on the Kevin Spacey role – is great fun to behold. It all bodes extremely well for the new long-player.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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The Wombats, Moving To New York

THE WOMBATSMOVING TO NEW YORK: It would be easy to write off The Wombats as just another lively indie-pop band. But there’s something undeniably catchy about their songwriting that elevates them above the average. Moving To New York is a classic case in point. It opens with an engaging guitar riff, a drum roll and an off-kilter waltz that then proceeds to rush into a genuinely catchy chorus that’s tailor-made for singing along with. The scuzzy riffs are a Wombats trademark, too, while the lyrics are rife with suggestions of romantic despair, all engagingly delivered so as not to appear dreary. The track is backed with plenty to offer fans, including a snappy remix from Paul van Dyk, a stripped back alternative from Kyte that puts vocals to the fore and is arguably the best version on the release, and their cover version of Bryan Adams’ (Everything I Do) I Do It For You, which really has to be heard to be believed. If you dig this, then be sure to check out the equally engaging album, A Guide To Love, Loss And Desperation.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Underworld, Beautiful Burnout

UNDERWORLDBEAUTIFUL BURNOUT: In album form, Beautiful Burnout, the latest offering from the Underworld boys, failed to really make an impression. In fact, I singled it out as rather monotonous. Hearing it in single form, away from the rest of their material, it actually sounds quite good – not brilliant. But you can certainly tell this is the same duo that were responsible for the likes of Born Slippy and Pearl’s Girl. A firm live favourite, Beautiful Burnout is a dramatic, atmospheric track that rides on a series of emotive melodies and a stop-start approach. It makes the most of Karl Hyde’s typically evocative vocals and combines elements of both dancefloor killer and morning after chillout, as well as evoking memories of influences such as Kraftwerk, Eno, Philip Glass and Erik Satie. It’s Underword, but Underworld with a twist, and it sounds all the better in self-contained form. I stand corrected! And, yes, there are plenty of remixes.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5

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Stephen Fretwell, Now

STEPHEN FRETWELL – NOW: One of a plethora of singer-songwriters to emerge form the UK in the early-2000s, Stephen Fretwell, moved to Manchester to study at Salford University but decided to launch a full-time music career instead. Having established himself on the Manchester live circuit, Fretwell released a series of well-received limited edition EPs and singles on local indie labels. The critical response, which included comparisons to Jeff Tweedy of US band Wilco, brought Fretwell to the attention of Polydor. And then came the album Man on The Roof, which really helped to establish him as an artist of genuine worth. Now, the latest track to emerge from that album, is one of the standouts – a track that slow builds from a simple piano opening to the type of euphoric treat that Coldplay might be proud of (especially when Fretwell adopts a falsetto vocal style). It’s emotive, passionate and pretty darn beautiful.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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The Corteeners, What Took You So Long

THE COURTEENERSWHAT TOOK YOU SO LONG?: The Courteeners return to action early in 2008 with the release of new single What Took You So Long?. The track offers a keenly anticipated taster of the band’s recording with Stephen Street and is an insight into their forthcoming debut album. And the early suggestion seems to be that the guitar work will be strong, the lyrics reflective of modern life and their environment, and vocals that are earthy at best. Certainly, there’s a keen sense of melody around the opening riffs and a nice structure overall, but there’s something that still fails to convince me about The Courteeners vocally and I wonder whether this will be another band of talented musicians let down by an average set of vocals that does little to help them stand out from the crowd. They could still go either way.
Rating: 3 out of 5

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Sons & Daughters, Darling

SONS & DAUGHTERS – DARLING: Glaswegian indie-band, Sons & Daughters, formed by ex-members of Arab Strap, Adele Bethel and David Gow, in 2001 look to kick off 2008 in emphatic fashion with the release of Darling, the second track to be taken from their latest album This Gift. Recorded with the help of Bernard Butler, it’s a lively, vivacious slice of guitar pop-rock that is packed with sharp riffs, crashing drums, some cheeky past references and a feisty set of female vocals. The boy-girl workout that comes late on also works well, as does the video, which pays lip service to the Julie Christie film of the same name in the ‘60s. The omens appear to be very good for Sons & Daughters, who look set to enjoy a very good 2008.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5

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Lightspeed Champion

LIGHTSPEED CHAMPIONTELL ME WHAT IT’S WORTH: Since the collapse of the Test Icicles, Dev Hynes has veered towards more radio-friendly, melodic territory and the fruits of his labours are putting forward some very positive material in Lightspeed Champion mode. New single Tell Me What It’s Worth embraces an altogether breezier, upbeat and acoustic style than the Test Icicles material and feels all the better for it. It’s dripping with melody, boasts a pleasant chorus and a really strong vocal performance from Dev that suggests he has not properly found his calling. The fun video also finds Dev walking through the streets of a city with anyone who he passes starting to follow him. It’s worth a watch. Tell Me What It’s Worth is the third track from Lightspeed Champion’s debut album Falling Off The Lavender Bridge, which finally hits stores on January 21. It should be well worth a listen.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5

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Joss Stone, Baby Baby Baby

JOSS STONEBABY BABY BABY: A welcome return for Joss Stone to the type of retro-heavy territory that first made her standout on the Soul Sessions LP. The singer drops a truly sassy set of vocals all over Baby Baby Baby that recalls both the depth and range of a young Aretha Franklin with the infectious enthusiasm of the Jackson 5 in their prime. It’s a toe-tapper par excellence that really gets you nodding along in appreciation without even trying, relying on a soulful, old-school, even Motown approach that really is impossible to dislike. The vocal layering late on also works well. More of the same, please, in the future! We like it when she sets the dancefloor ablaze.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Jennifer Lopez

JENNIFER LOPEZHOLD IT DON’T DROP IT: Jennifer Lopez releases Hold It Don’t Drop It from her latest LP, Brave – but unlike the LP’s name suggests there’s nothing really adventurous about this particular slice of R’n’B offering. For sure, it drops a funky, disco friendly synth and some finger clicking, booty shaking beats but the vocals are hopelessly generic and feel as though they’re striving a little too hard to emulate the likes of Beyonce or Destiny’s Child. And the ‘70s retro feel also has a been there, done it before type of worn out quality. If you heard it on a Saturday night whilst under the influence of a few drinks, it’ll doubtless succeed in getting you on the dancefloor but it’s throwaway pop at its most blatant and really doesn’t stay with you for any length of time. Lopez is certainly capable of much better.
Rating: 2.5 out of 5

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The Mars Volta

THE MARS VOLTAWAX SIMULACRA: Though Omar Rodriguez-Lopez and Cedric Bixler Zavala did time in popular Emo band At The Drive-In, their subsequent project, the Mars Volta, is a horse of an entirely different colour. Instead of punk, the pair takes their influences largely from 1970s prog rock and fusion. Extended, suite-like compositions and dizzying instrumental virtuosity are the order of the day, and never more evident than on self indulgent new single Wax Simulacra. Built around wailing guitar loops and loud, glam-influenced vocals this comes across as a never-ending wall of noise that threatens to run away with itself on numerous occasions. One can imagine that it succeeds in whipping the live crowds into a frenzy – as suggested by the video – but the Mars Volta are an acquired taste that I have yet to really master.
Rating: 2 out of 5

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Turin Brakes

TURIN BRAKESSOMETHING IN MY EYE: Following the acclaim for their fourth album, Dark on Fire, Turin Brakes will release the single Something In My Eye on January 14. A vintage effort that boasts aching melodies, the song is a beautiful paean to the wonder and awe of parenthood. It washes over you in suitably soothing fasion, even provoking comparions with the assured vocal style of Crowded House and the telling guitar melodies of Coldplay (as if to underline the bolder guitar direction of the new material). To accompany the release, their will be four short films available to fans across a variety of media and through the band’s website (www.turinbrakes.com ). As well as the promotional film for the single (directed by Karni and Saul), there will be short films for three of the other album tracks: Last Chance, directed by Albert Kadagolian; Dark On Fire, directed by Shelly Love, and New Star, directed by the band’s Olly Knights. Is there no end to their talent?
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Josh Ritter, Right Moves

JOSH RITTERRIGHT MOVES: Josh Ritter releases catchy single Right Moves digitally, as a reminder of the fresher new sound that’s evident on his latest long-player, The Historic Conquests of Josh Ritter. Written by Josh and produced by longtime collaborator Sam Kassirer, Right Moves is fresh and instantaneous new ground. It kick-starts with some bold piano keys and replaces the usual gentle acoustics with some thundering drums, a soaring horns section, a luscious string arrangement and The Great North Sound Society Orchestra. It’s arguably a fuller sound for Ritter that suggests the Idaho-based favourite is, indeed, making all the right moves in terms of progressing himself. We defy you not to find it the least bit catchy!
Rating: 3.5 out of 5

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Nephu Huzzband, Papers

NEPHU HUZZBAND – PAPERS: Nottingham based four piece Nephu Huzzband play with a fluidity that belies their age; punctuated with stabbing reverb-soaked guitars and early Cure-inspired hooks and vocals, they seem to be trying to craft a sound that broods and enthrals in equal measures. To be fair, they come fairly close with new single Papers, a lively guitar anthem that suggests they could be quite a useful act to keep an eye on in spite of the weird name. They’re minimalist in approach, tender in years and probably over-rely on the sound of days gone by (which doesn’t exactly make them fresh) but give them time and they could well progress nicely. B-side, Either This Wallpaper Goes Or I Do displays not only a keen sense of humour lyrically, but also a greater sense of melody. It’s a little more reigned in, a little more blatantly Robert Smith vocally, but crucially the song itself doesn’t suffer for it. The band’s name may not instantly roll off the tongue, but their music just might. Nephu Huzzband could well attract a healthy following on both sides of the Atlantic if they’re carefully marketed!
Rating: 3 out of 5

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